God Help Me: I Am Obsessed With First-Generation Audi TTs on Craigslist

One huge part of being a car enthusiast is always wanting to own things you don’t have. Another huge part is undertaking heroic mental gymnastics to justify owning those things, especially when deep down you know it’s a horrible idea. I just swatted one of my bosses away from owning an early 2000s Audi out of reliability concerns. So why am I, then, obsessed with owning a first-generation Audi TT as my next car?

The prospect of ownership is a fairly recent obsession, though I have always liked these things. Despite their very humble Volkswagen Golf-derived underpinnings, I maintain the first TT is one of the best-looking cars ever—a Karmann-Ghia of the modern age, a striking Bauhaus sport coupe and for sure a future classic. (I’m not sure it’s at that point yet, but it will be eventually.)

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There have been two other generations of TT since the car debuted in 1998, and they’re both handsome, but have never been quite as good as the original. It’s also been many years since I’ve driven that car, but a friend in high school’s dad had one. I remember it feeling high-tech for its time, reasonably quick and small and light enough that its handling put it in the same galaxy as something like an NB Mazda Miata—though certainly not better than everyone’s favorite roadster.

But lately I was hit by a powerful realization: these things have become crazy cheap on Craigslist. Am I a fool for even considering this?

For example, this forest green example with Quattro and 143,000 miles on the clock for $4,700 near me. It’s a manual, too, and appears to be in decent shape minus the peeling clear bra up front. Tell what modern car looks that good!

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Photo: Craigslist

Is this a cry for help? Should you be sending someone to my home at this very moment to check on my welfare?

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Or this battleship gray 2005 example, manual and Quattro again, with 125,000 miles and an alleged lack of mechanical problems all for a reasonable $4,580:

Photo: Craigslist
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Do you currently believe I am being held hostage somewhere, and this post is actually meant as a distress call?

Or, finally, this other green one, front-wheel drive this time but still a manual, with 120,000 miles for $5,000:

Photo: Craigslist
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Have my years of working in the unstable, stressful world of digital media finally broken my brain, leading me to feel invincible to the consequences we all know are headed my way if I pull the trigger?

See, deep down I know this is a bad idea. For as beautiful as the TTs are, they’re among the poster children for poor early 2000s Audi and VW reliability. In my many travels, I have found countless ownership horror stories to back up this myth. Electrical issues, engine problems and expensive parts and repairs are known to be common here. In fact, as I recall, that high school friend’s dad dumped his TT after a few years when it just got too expensive to run right.

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Even a cursory search about the TT’s issues will reveal unto you a world of problems: bad ignition coils, timing chain problems, defective instrument clusters and power windows, costly TT-specific parts and more.

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The best case scenario is this would be a fun and very good-looking money pit, for a little while, before I get totally sick of it. I know I would achieve the same ends if I simply set fire to several thousand dollars, over a period of months, while taking the bus or the subway to get around.

Someone send help, please? Before it’s too late?

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About the author

Patrick George

Editor-in-Chief at Jalopnik. 2002 Toyota 4Runner.